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February 15, 2007
Overheard in the pizzeria: Pre-adolescent business
I was eating a slice of pizza on a snowy afternoon in my suburb. A group of boys--I'd say there were seventh graders--was making a lot of noise at the next table. One of them said, out of the blue: "How does MySpace make money?"
"Advertising," another one said. "They put advertisements on the pages."
"They don't need money!" said a third. "It's just a Web page. I could set one up and it doesn't cost anything."
The kid who knew about advertising made the point that MySpace needs money to maintain the Web site, especially if millions of people are visiting it.
Then they started talking about YouTube, and one of them said that Google bought it for "one point seven million..."
"Billion," one of them says. "One point seven billion..."
It occurred to me as I began my trudge home that these kids are orders of magnitude more tuned into business than my group was at that age. I think it's largely because young people can start businesses that shake the world. In my day, we never bothered thinking about Ford or Zenith's business plan. And the people who ran those companies all looked incredibly old. They'd paid their dues, which surely involved years, or decades, or drudgery. At least that's how we saw it. (And not one of my friends even flirted with business classes in college.) For these kids, business is a much more vibrant and relevant subject. They know that a start-up is just an idea away.
This raises two questions:
1) How can BusinessWeek reach this generation?
2) I wonder how they're doing in math...
I think you're missing something: it's not *just* those kids. It's everyone that's connected.
A couple of years ago I wrote about my experience teaching a non-metropolitan Chinese gold farmer trying to work inside Second Life some of the not-so-obvious things about capitalism. Similarly I've taught a number of baby-boomers the same things; many Westerners don't really know how capitalism works. They've lived their lives inside a corporate cocoon, safe from the real world.
DSo I'd say, don't ask "How can BusinessWeek reach this generation". Instead, ask how BusinessWeek can reach the newly-enlightened masses that exist across all generations. It may well mean that you need to target sub-groups, but you may find that those groups are, in fact, not defined by their age or their generation.
Posted by: csven at February 15, 2007 11:15 AM
csven makes an excellent point. While I'm only months over 40, I am turned off by the marketing assumption that the demographic "40+" neither plays games online or offline, likes cool gadgets and clever design etc etc.
People are living longer so interests have begun to be seen to span generations. How do we slice and dice the "online" demographic; by what sensible metrics can they be reached?
Posted by: niti bhan at February 15, 2007 05:58 PM
I've got a place for you to start. Open up your content. Let people link to stories.
I love the magazine, I hate your policies that seem so 1997.
Posted by: Chris Baggott at February 16, 2007 03:26 PM
I've also noticed that kids are so much more saavy than kids were, say, 20 years ago.
Posted by: TeesMyBody.com T-Shirts at February 18, 2007 03:37 PM
Good questions. One of the questions I'd like to ask is did any of those 7th graders know what Google had done to enable it to pay that kind of money for YouTube? Another question would be, do they understand why there aren't hundreds of others out there duplicating the Google phenomena?
My guess, based mostly on my teaching experience, is that they don't know. And I'd also guess that their grasp of the math involved would be sketchy at best.
I think that teaching business math as a parallel track to science/engineering math would be a wise investment. Perhaps that's something BusinessWeek might get involved with.
Posted by: Jeff Hess at February 19, 2007 10:15 AM
Interesting to think about. In one sense everyone is more virtually connected, as you described. From another perspective, are kids today as physically connected to the biz world? Or, does gaming, social networks, virtual worlds, etc. mean they aren't shoveling driveways, mowing lawns, buying/selling/trading baseball cards, delivering newspapers, etc. to directly learn about the biz world from the inside out? If so, maybe they learn more from the virtual connection regardless?
Posted by: gzino at February 19, 2007 11:24 AM
Well, I have to wonder how the kids are doing in ethics class. I hope they'll do better than many of their predecessors.
Posted by: Carolyn Kay at February 20, 2007 06:28 AM
I just found your blog today (even though my wife is a subscriber of your print magazine), maybe that says something.
BTW I found you via Ze Frank - hows that for circular.
Anyway, if you want to reach out to an alternative network how about both of you come and speak (as well as listen) at www.BarCampUSA.org in Wisconsin in August.
With 5000+ geeks there it will certainly be a fertile ground for discussions.
Posted by: Dean Collins at February 20, 2007 11:12 AM